My recent voice mail message begins, “Hello. This is Mary Beth Tinker.”
I’m not generally a name-dropper, but I have taught the Tinker v. Des Moines case throughout my career, so it is exciting to have a Tinker kid return a call.
The Tinker family couldn’t have imagined that their symbolic protest against the Vietnam War would still be a landmark case for student expression 40 years after it went to the Supreme Court, but from the beginning their desire to protest required the kind of courage that it often takes to protect the First Amendment.
Tinker said that when administrators heard about the protest they called an emergency meeting and decided that any student wearing a black armband to school would be suspended.
“After that, we weren’t sure what to do. We had learned about the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment in school, and we felt free speech should apply to us too,” Tinker said.
She added that the young activists used the examples of civil rights protesters as their models for the courage needed to proceed.
Four decades later students think of the Tinkers as models of courage too. IHSPA student officers instantly named Tinker as their top choice for a speaker at this year’s First Amendment Symposium.
Although she is a full-time registered nurse in Washington D.C., Tinker still works for peace and rights for young people.
And that leads to the best part of the voice message—that she will speak at this year’s symposium. For more information about this event contact Diana Hadley. There is no registration or fee, but knowing the number of people who plan to attend helps us plan.